(For the past few years, some friends and I have run a silly blog called Sexy A-Levels, collating and mocking the pictures used in the British press of attractive young girls jumping in the air to celebrate their A-Level exam results. It’s basically the only kind of picture most papers illustrate these stories with, because non-attractive girls and all boys apparently don’t take exams. Anyway, it’s become quite popular and sort of A Thing on Twitter, and so naturally we decided to stop doing it. Here’s a slightly extended version of the post explaining why, cross-posted here merely for the sake of posterity and completeness and personal archiving and shit. A rewritten and partly expanded version of the below was also published in The Independent’s blogs. Most of these words were written by @JoeTheDough, gentleman of the internet; all the boring bits are my additions.)
Tomorrow, students across England, Wales & Northern Ireland get their A-Level results (Scotland got their results last week, because Scotland). This is our moment. Our Christmas and Chanukah and DFS Sale and Flying Ant Day all rolled into one. Naturally, we’ve been getting asked what we’ve got in store for the site this year. And the answer is… well, we’re basically done here, kids. For all the funtimes it’s provided, we’re stopping. And a nation weeps.
Reasons? HERE ARE REASONS:
1) Our weapons are useless. In the 3 years (4 years? Jesus) we’ve been doing this, we couldn’t help noticing that most media outlets remain totally unchanged in their skeevy coverage. Also, some of them have started being knowing and arch in their skeeviness, because this is clearly a great British tradition to rank alongside the rude seaside postcard. “Look! We’re being ironically appalling. Aren’t we adorable?” Our failure to overturn the entrenched patriarchal edifice of the entire corporate media via the medium of a joke Tumblr is profoundly disheartening to us, in ways we cannot fully express through GIFs.
2) Twitter kind of has it covered. The hashtag #sexyalevels does the job just fine, and over the years has basically come to feel like it’s actually the best way to do this thing.
3) You guys knew this was a joke, right? (Part I) People send us emails and lose their tempers about this. And we kind of get why. And – eh – they’re kind of right. Is there such a thing as “glorifying through contempt”? Because there should be. And this is starting to feel like it.
4) You guys knew this was a joke, right? (Part II) People also link to the site saying things like “lovely knockers on here”, and oh god.
5) This thing has become a feedback loop. Cf. “We’re being ironically appalling”. As Chris Cook noted in the FT last year, this isn’t just something that newspapers do in isolation. The news agencies only submit the kind of pictures they think news publishers want; the photographers only take pictures they think their agencies are looking for; and the more publicity-savvy schools only pick and choose their most “beyootiful girls” to pimp out to the snappers. So it goes, right? Nobody is shocked, shocked by this stuff. But it’s sort of begun to feel like giving it a name and making it a big jolly media in-joke is only reinforcing that – what originated as a piss-take starts to feel like it’s become a pro bono branding exercise for the whole sweaty-palmed business.
6) We are all fabulously important people now. Seriously you guys. We’re like the 1% now and this does not look good on golf club applications.
7) Feminism, amirite? We’re dicking about here, of course, but at the heart of this one-joke website is the tiniest, most serious core of fundamental truth: This weird institutional boner that Fleet Street has for a particular type of soft, young female flesh is something we all pay a subtle psychic toll for. Now you’d be right to point out the psychic toll we pay is vastly smaller than that which we pay for all the other sexist bullshit in the world, and also there’s WARS, but that’s not really the point. It feels all enabley.
8) Dude, aren’t you like, old? Yeah. We are old, old men. One of us – we’re not saying who* – is 36. He has a wife and a son and he moderates a website that collates pictures of 18 year old girls for a joke that even its creators struggle to justify. As the great man once said, it’s no way to run a fucking ballroom.
OK. That’s us nailed to our crosses. And yes, OBVIOUSLY it’s absurdly po-faced and over-the-top to post something like this on a website like this – but, well, there you go. We’re out.
That said, if someone else wants to take up the reins, we’d be happy to let you. Hit us up.
Many thanks for all the links, tweets and submissions over the years. Also, please follow us on our new website, nothingbutgifsoftomdaleysarse.tumblr.com.